Midterm Elections vs. Presidential Elections


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Patrick Murray's picture

Midterm Elections vs. Presidential Elections

In 2014, minimum wage laws, abortion rights, gay marriage, environmental policy, education funding, medical and recreational marijuana, and etc. were on the ballot in several states along with hotly contested gubernatorial and senatorial races. These were hot button issues and races that had a direct affect on voters. But voter turnout in 2014 was under 45% nation-wide. But why was it so low? Why is it that the issues that have a major direct affect on a voter's life didn't push Americans to go and vote for their Governors, Senators, Representatives, and etc.? I believe it's because the media doesn't sensationalize it the same way they would during the Presidential election year. Like it or not we hate to think the media doesn't influence how or when we vote, but it does a great deal.

I believe Presidential Elections are important, but when it comes down to issues at the federal level having a direct affect on your life it has very little affect on you personally. For example, could Donald Trump's Muslim Ban really pass Congress? Of course not! It's unconstitutional and the Speaker of the House sets the agenda to what they will vote on. And Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has already stated he would not support that. So Trump can say goodbye to a vote on such a thing. Could Trump really get Congress to build a massive wall and force Mexico to pay for it? Absolutely not! Congress has the power of the purse. They decide the allocation of funds to go towards such projects. And that seems unlikely. My point is the President can do very little without Congress. And if Congress and the President are deadlocked then nothing happens. But more often than not a Governor and their legislature has an easier time getting things done and signed into law than a President and their Congress.

You've more than likely heard of Trump vs. Clinton, Obama vs. McCain, Bush vs. Gore, and on and on and on. But have you ever heard of Crist vs. Scott, Wolf vs. Corbett, Baker vs. Coakley, Kashkari vs. Brown, Rauner vs. Quinn, McConnell vs. Lundergan-Grimes, Tillis vs. Hagan, Landrieu vs. Cassidy, and etc? If you're lost and have no idea who any of the people I just named then the media has done its job. It's blinded you from where the real work is going on, and that's in state governments all across the country. I use 2014 as an example because it was the most recent midterm election. It seems during Presidential years the media wants viewers to believe that the most change happens in the White House. It's actually the opposite. Most of the issues that make a difference in your life lie in the hands of your Governor, State legislators, state Attorney Generals, and other statewide elected officials.

Let me go more in depth now. If you want to adopt a child you do it through your state and the state has adoption laws. If you want to get married to your gay partner your state and local government is responsible for providing you with a marriage license. If you want to go to a public in-state university the funding for the school and program of your choice is done at the state level. If you want to become a teacher you have to go through your state. If you want to get a driver's license you have to go through your state. If you want to go into social work you have to go through your state. If you want to become a registered voter you go through your state. If you want to get a scholarship to go to school in your state you have to go through youe state. If you want healthcare and you're low income you can qualify for Medicaid at the state level. I can go on and on and on some more about the powers of state government. But my point is the federal government has little power over you. Except if you're trying to become a legal citizen, get Social Security, or Medicare. Those kinds of things are more at the federal level, but I don't want to get too convoluted.

The pace of change at the federal level is usually slow and takes months and years to be implemented. But laws implemented at the state level go into effect in weeks and a couple months. But midterm elections have the worst voter turnout and the media plays a big role in sensationalizing what's more important. Is a decision to get rid of the Department of Veterans' Affairs going to have a greater affect on you? Or is college affordability going to have more of an effect on millions of students across the country? If you think the latter then you're right, especially if you're a student. The truth is the states have more power and more of a direct affect on your life than does the federal government. You wouldn't think that if you were watching cable news. If you think Donald Trump is going to get his Muslim ban implemented and his Mexican wall built then you don't understand the boundaries of the Constitution or reality. If you think Bernie Sanders is going to get his Medicare-for-all program or his plan of a nationalized tuition-free college program in the span of a week then you don't have a real grasp of how change works. Ted Cruz is no longer running for the Republican nomination, but if you thought he was going to abolish the IRS and impose a complete flat tax overnight you don't have a good grasp of how change works either. I'm not saying these ideas are good or bad. I'm saying that they're much more difficult to get done than the candidates make them out to be. Regardless, these issues are what's being brought up in the Presidential campaign when in reality they don't have much chance at becoming reality in contrast to getting an increase of your state's own minimum wage, which would make a huge difference in the lives of working people.

I think Presidential Elections are important even though they more than likely won't have a big difference in my own life. But I want voters to understand that midterm elections are critical to how you live your own life. The media doesn't make it out to be that way because it doesn't get the ratings, advertising, and money it wants during a midterm year. But the major news networks get an avalanche of money, advertising, and ratings during a Presidential year. It's the reason Donald Trump is on cable news every single day. It's because the outlandish things Trump says gives the networks a huge advantage at attracting an audience. If Trump went on television and said he was pro-life no one would care because they would expect a Republican politician to be pro-life. But if Donald Trump went on television and said he believed Elizabeth Warren was a lesbian then everyone would drop everything and turn on their TVs to see what's going on. That's just how the media works. It's meant to broadcast what gets them the most ratings. Unfortunately it wasn't always like that. But that's how the 21st century 24-hour news cycle works. If Trump weren’t running for President then the media would be doing very poorly. If this were a Clinton vs. Bush race then nobody would care as much. But because it's a Clinton vs. Trump race everyone fears the apocalypse is on the horizon. So if there’s one thing for certain the media has made a ton of money off of this election cycle. And the money doesn’t seem to be drying up anytime soon.

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